Creative Just Eat Anatomy of An Ad

Wes Anderson’s puppet maker on what went into making Just Eat’s stop-motion ad


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

April 29, 2024 | 8 min read

We catch up with Andy Gent – as well as director Tim McNaughton and McCann London’s Regan Warner – for a behind-the-scenes look at how they painstakingly created the delivery app’s ‘The Joy in Everyday’ spot.

Tim McNaughton

Behind the scenes on Just Eat's latest ad / Tim McNaughton

When you think of a Just Eat ad what’s the first that comes to mind? If I were to guess, I’d say a big-name celebrity spot, maybe Snoop Dogg or Katy Perry, with that ever-present earworm of a jingle. Did somebody say…

But back at the start of March this year, the food delivery service did something a little bit unexpected and a little bit brilliant. Hoping to position itself as ‘more than just a weekend treat,’ the app introduced a whole host of furry new brand mascots.

These characters include a family of squirrels, student rabbits, a suburban beaver, an otter couple and city-living moles, each in relatable situations. That’s all very sweet, but what is so striking about this campaign is the level of craft that shines through in bucket loads. The puppets are the handiwork of Andy Gent (Wes Anderson’s puppet maker), while direction came from Tim McNaughton of The Bobbsey Twins. Getting into the minds of these two creatives, plus McCann London’s ECD Regan Warner, about the project is nothing short of fascinating.

With the brief firmly in place, the agency’s creative duo Matt Searle and Olly Wood got to work on the concept of ‘The Joy of Everyday’ and the script. As Warner tells The Drum, they put a “creative spin” on it that gives viewers something that will “stick in their minds.”

Even though it was a different approach for Just Eat, the brand was on board fairly quickly, says Warner. “It is a smart client. With big celebrities, there is big spending, but we still use the brand assets, the jingle is still there, we have the asset colors, but it’s an evolution of the brand.”

Once the genesis of an idea is there and the client is on board, that’s when Gent and McNaughton begin collaborating on concepts. Usually, the master puppet maker begins with a lot of drawings as this means he can “blitz through ideas” and be quite flippant about which ones will work or not, he tells us.

Once he feels that there’s something interesting to work with in 2D, he will begin to see how it could be transformed into a 3D version. Initially, this will mean sculpting something in plasticine and then making a mold of it. From there, there’s the armatures, the mechanical skeletons of the characters made of wire, titanium alloys, and steel, which form the “bones.” His team also uses foam, fiberglass, resin and silicone to achieve the design.

The set of the Just Eat ad

“Nothing exists; everything has to be made,” explains Gent of the one-of-a-kind puppets. “And so, from a director’s point of view, I think it’s quite a dreamy kind of moment to go, ‘I can choose everything that I want in this world.’”

Gent says his team can tailor and make absolutely anything, putting it together to create something quite magical. What’s important, though, is that everything is brought together on the correct scale. It won’t work if the animals look like they’re wearing doll costumes, for example. It’s a process that takes many, many weeks and lots of different people and skill sets.

“You might have a dozen people who have come into contact with it [the puppet] through the process.” Gent continues. “Then you hand it over to the animator and there’s this amazing moment where this thing that you’ve seen as a drawing, or even as a conversation – you see it talking back to you. It’s real magic.”

Just Eat set

At that point, the creatives see the puppet “walk and talk” for the first time. As Gent brilliantly puts it, it’s like a “little piece of Prometheus forgery of another world” and that, whatever the team wanted, they could make. It truly is a collaborative process from start to finish.

It would have been fairly easy for the team to not do this in stop-motion but that would have removed the dream-like quality. Most of the footage McNaughton directs is live-action, but the animation technique holds a special place in his heart.

“I remember Saturday mornings from childhood when my brother and I used to watch Ray Harryhausen movies, such as Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts,” explains the director. “I think I sort of subconsciously fell in love with the stop-motion.”

For McNaughton, it’s all about the analog quality that the technique gives; you can almost touch the level of craft. For Just Eat, the marriage of the mundanities of everyday life shown in the ads, combined with the artful approach, makes it unique.

Set of the Just Eat ad

Everything in the ad, no matter how small, has been handcrafted, from the postcard on a table to a cheese plant in the background. Gent laughs when the subject turns to the ratan headboard that is featured in one particular scene. It was tricky to make.

“It [ the headboard] was so much work to make in miniature,” Gent says. “The whole process of making just the headboard is about an eight-day turnaround.” There were an astounding 60 people working on that one item, from digital design to 3D printing to textures and paint.

It’s these details that bring the project to life and make it believable. “There are so many lovely little Easter eggs that you can put into these things,” continues Gent. “You know, things like what it says on a remote control or having Vanity Fur instead for a magazine cover.” Just to add to that level of detail, one scene shot from the ‘outside’ features bricks that were painted by hand, one by one.

Set of the Just Eat ad

Each puppet is around six inches tall. They have to be that scale so that the puppet masters can get into their heads and move them around. Replacement faces don’t go well with fur and they have to look like they are lip-syncing.

“It’s like looking into a pocket watch and there’s all the mechanics inside. That’s what it’s like inside the puppet’s head,” says Gent. “Then inside are all these amazing things that move eyebrows, move cheeks and teeth. So, when you’ve got the dialogue, the animators can break it down into seconds and then they can make the right shape with the puppet’s head or the lips.” Part of the brief is that the heads have to be emotive and expressive; they’ve got to be able to communicate subtle bits of information.

Of course, one of the main challenges of stop-motion is that it is such a long process. For example, a three-second shot of someone walking along a street could take six or seven hours to animate. “Imagine, you’ve got four rabbits on a sofa and they’re all reacting to something or doing different things,” says McNaughton. “Every time you take a photo, you have to adjust every single one of the characters and then do it again.”

Just Eat set

Basically, you have to get every shot right the first time, as there isn’t a lot of room for error. How the team avoids any mishaps is that they will film themselves doing each movement beforehand so that the animators have a reference point.

“You’re working in a very confined space, where if you knock anything or if anything moves, it’s a disaster because it means you have to start again,” the director continues. “But it’s super fun at the same time.”

McNaughton candidly says that it’s a bit of a magical process and that there aren’t many projects like this. “It’s a director’s dream. It’s being able to come up with something from scratch, from a blank page and see that come to life so completely, without compromises.”

Creative Just Eat Anatomy of An Ad

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